RSA Conference 2021 Goes All Virtual Due To COVID-19

‘The evolving state of the pandemic coupled with the uncertainty about bringing an event together the size of RSA Conference made us reconsider that plan [for a physical event],’ says General Manger Linda Gray Martin.


Organizers of the RSA Conference have thrown in the towel on a physical event next year after previously pushing the cybersecurity conference until springtime.

Conference officials had in May announced the 2021 event would be delayed from the week of Feb. 8 until the week of May 17 in hopes of having both a physical event at San Francisco’s Moscone Center as well as a virtual experience. At the time, conference organizers hoped having the event in May would increase the safety of attendees.

“While we were optimistic that moving RSA Conference 2021 to a later date would enable us to host a physical event with a virtual component, the evolving state of the pandemic coupled with the uncertainty about bringing an event together the size of RSA Conference made us reconsider that plan,” RSA Conference Senior Director and General Manager Linda Gray Martin wrote in a blog post.

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[Related: RSA 2021 Moved From February To May, Will Have Virtual Piece]

Martin said organizers wanted to share their decision as quickly as possible since many conference sponsors, partners and attendees are currently putting together their 2021 business plans. By announcing the shift to virtual now, Martin said conference stakeholders should be in the best possible position to make informed decisions and properly plan.

The virtual conference will include more than 300 sessions across 20 educational tracks with keynotes, partner seminars, interactive sessions and sponsor briefings, as well as long-standing traditions like the Innovation Sandbox Contest and Capture the Flag. Although exact prices haven’t been set, attendees can expect the Full Conference virtual pass will be cheaper than the pass for the physical event.

“Although we’re disappointed not to host RSAC physically next year, we aim to deliver a stellar virtual experience that reflects what the community has come to expect from RSA Conference, and we’re excited to share it with a broader audience,” Martin wrote in the blog post.

More details about the agenda for the 2021 30th anniversary event will be released early next year, and conference officials said exciting new elements will be made possible by the virtual environment. Martin said hosting RSA Conference 2020 Asia Pacific & Japan online in July taught conference organizers that virtual events are most accessible to the global community.

RSA Conference organizers controversially decided to move forward with their physical 2020 event from Feb. 24 to Feb. 28 even though other shows scheduled to take place that same week such as Mobile World Congress were cancelled. In the weeks leading up to RSA Conference 2020, 14 vendors pulled out of the show, including three Platinum and Gold Sponsors: IBM Security, AT&T Cybersecurity and Verizon.

The lighter attendance at RSA Conference 2020 was noticeable both on the Expo floor as well as on the streets around the Moscone Center, with conference officials reporting that more than 36,000 people attended the event. That was down more than 15 percent from a reported attendance of 42,500 during RSA Conference 2019, which took place during the first week of March.

Four Exabeam employees who attended RSA Conference 2020 tested positive for coronavirus a week or two after the massive cybersecurity event, with Senior Security Engineer Chris Tillett requiring hospitalization and spending roughly two weeks in an induced coma. Tillett woke up from his coma on March 20 and was released from Danbury (Conn.) Hospital several days later.